April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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How are “months” different from all other demarcations of time when it comes to Yiddish? All other demarcations of time have acceptable Yiddish equivalents for their respective Hebrew salutations. In Hebrew, we wish one another a “Yom Tov,” for which the acceptable Yiddish is “a gooten tog.” In Hebrew, we wish one another a “Shavua Tov,” for which the Yiddish equivalent is “a gooteh voch.” In Hebrew, we wish one another a “Shanah Tovah,” for which the Yiddish equivalent is “a goot yohr.” In Hebrew, we wish one another a “Chodesh Tov,” for which the Yiddish equivalent is “a gooten chodesh.” It would be wrong, however, to conclude that there is no Yiddish word for month. There is… Salutations aside, “monaht” is the correct Yiddish word for month. Yet one rarely, if ever wishes another person “a gooten monaht.”

Tomorrow is designated “Shabbat HaChodesh.” In addition to designating Nissan as the first month of the biblical year, our ancestors were commanded to prepare a special meal celebrating their upcoming Exodus from Egypt. As such, it may be of interest to see what the Yiddish language has to say about the word “monaht.”

Monahtshrift (monthly publication). Although we are known as “people of the book,” we have earned the right to be regarded as people of the “pen.” Even under the most austere conditions, our people could be counted upon to put out a togblaht (daily newspaper), a vochenblaht (weekly newspaper) and a monahtshrift (monthly publication).

Monahtlicheh (monthly occurrence for a woman). Perhaps, the best euphemism linked to monahtlicheh or “that time of the month,” for women would be the Yiddish expression, “zi gayt noch in mikveh” (she still goes to the mikveh). Short of such a deft description, the term “monahtlicheh” is used to indicate that the female biological clock is still ticking.

In dee hoicheh monahten (in the high months). In the same vein as the preceding word, “in dee hoicheh monahten” describes an expectant mother who is in her final term of pregnancy and is about to give birth in the very near future.

Zolstu loifen in bays hakeesay yeddeh dry meenoot odder yeddeh dry monahten (may you run to the privy every three minutes or every three months). Apparently, our Eastern European Yiddish speaking ancestors with their colorful expletives were unaware of or unbothered by the words of the prophet Isaiah who warned that, “even on the fatherless and widow, Hashem will show no compassion because all the people are ungodly and evil doers with every mouth speaking foul words.” How else could one explain uttering such an abhorrent imprecation?

Monatshrift aside, let’s look forward to “a gooten chodesh” where we think twice and twice again how appropriate it is for us to use terms such as monahtlicheh, in dee hoicheh monahten and zolstu loifen in bays hakeesay yeddeh dry meenoot odder yeddeh dry monahten, if at all.


Rabbi Shawn Zell has recently returned to New Jersey, after serving at a pulpit in Dallas. He possesses certification in teaching Yiddish. Rabbi Zell is the author of three books.

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